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Expand chart
Chart: United Nations World Population Prospects 2017; Chris Canipe/Axios

Around the world, people are having kids later in life than they used to, and in the next several decades, most babies in the Western world are projected to be born to 30-somethings, according to the 2017 United Nations World Population Prospects.

Why it matters: Already, demographers and economists are concerned about the falling rate of children being born in many countries, which could ultimately cause economic instability. Having kids later in life typically leads to having fewer kids, and women who wait until their 30s and 40s are at greater risk of infertility or pregnancy complications, according according to UNFPA.

In Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Spain, the average age at first birth for women has already surpassed 30, according to a new report by the United Nations Population Fund.

"There’s no way the fertility rate is going to go up significantly unless the average age of first child birth comes back down a bit. And that’s hard to see."
— Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute told Axios,

How we got here: As with many of the recent changes in fertility trends, increased education and empowerment of women has caused the average age of first-time parents to rise. Women are more likely to wait longer to focus on their pursuit of education or careers or increased financial stability before having kids.

  • "People really try to make a living first. You try to get more security, finish education. It takes longer and longer," Michael Herrmann, a senior adviser for economics and demography at UNFPA, told Axios.
  • He added that in some cases people are worried about the cost of having and caring for children, especially with rising education prices.
  • In Korea, for example, the high cost of education and immense pressure on parents to provide expensive tutoring to ensure their child's success has contributed to the decline in fertility rates there, according to Jackson.
  • The decline in teen births in places such as the U.S. and Eastern Europe has also been a significant factor in the rising average age of childbearing women.

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